September data are now available from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), which provides monthly information on payroll employment, earnings and hours worked for Canada, the provinces and territories.

At the beginning of September, as Canadian families adapted to new back-to-school routines, public health restrictions had been substantially eased across the country and many businesses and workplaces had re-opened. Throughout the month however, targeted public health measures were reintroduced in response to increases in the number of COVID-19 cases. In British Columbia, new rules and guidelines related to bars and restaurants were implemented on September 8. In Ontario, limits on social gatherings were tightened for the hot spots of Toronto, Peel and Ottawa on September 17 and for the rest of the province on September 19.

SEPH provides an account of payroll employment, that is, the number of employees receiving pay or benefits (employment income) during a given month. The survey excludes the self-employed, owners and partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, and employees in the agricultural sector. In conjunction with results from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), SEPH data contribute to understanding labour market conditions, in large part by providing detailed subsector and industry statistics.

Payroll employment recovery continues in September

In September, the number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer—measured in SEPH as payroll employment—rose by 337,500 (+2.2%). This followed an increase of roughly 1.8 million payroll jobs from June to August, and brought the total payroll employment change since February to a decline of 1.2 million (-7.3%). Total employment—as measured by the LFS—rose by 378,000 (+2.1%) in September, bringing employment to within 720,000 (-3.7%) of the February level.

Employment growth slows for hourly paid employees

In September, payroll employment gains were smaller for hourly paid employees (+0.6%; +54,900) than for salaried employees (+3.2%; +177,700). The number of hourly paid employees was 9.4% (-923,100) below its pre-COVID level, while the number of salaried employees was 3.8% (-225,100) below.

Total hours worked continue to rise

Total hours worked continued to increase in September, up 1.6%. This growth brought total hours worked to 6.0% below their pre-COVID February level. Month over month, average hours worked per week edged up to 33.5 hours in September, higher than in February, when payroll employees worked an average of 33.0 hours per week.

Average weekly earnings little changed

Average weekly earnings were little changed at $1,111 in September. Year over year, however, earnings increased by 6.9%, as job losses throughout the COVID-19 economic shutdown were more concentrated among lower-paid employees.

Payroll employment growth continues in both the services-producing and the goods-producing sectors

In September, payroll employment continued to recover in both the services-producing (+2.4%; +295,000) and the goods-producing (+1.2%; +33,800) sectors. In services, gains were widespread with the largest monthly increases in accommodation and food services (+48,000). In the goods-producing sector, growth slowed notably in September, following an increase of 2.1% the previous month, with gains in construction (+18,700) and manufacturing (+13,800). Payroll employment in the services-producing sector and the goods-producing sector was 7.7% and 5.8% below the pre-COVID level respectively in September.

Looking ahead

October LFS results—reflecting labour market conditions as of the week of October 11 to 17—showed a slowing in the pace of employment recovery in specific sectors as several provinces tightened public health measures in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. October SEPH results—to be released on December 22—will shed further light on the subsectors and industries most impacted by the re-implementation and tightening of public health restrictions.

Source: Statistics Canada